The U.S. trade deficit narrowed sharply by surprise during March, but analysts predict mounting oil prices will widen the gap going forward.
The U.S. deficit in international trade of goods and services shrank by 5.6% to $62 billion from $65.64 billion in February, the Commerce Department said Friday. Exports rose, but the value of imports fell as oil prices dipped, Commerce data showed.
The $62 billion gap was the smallest since $58.46 billion in August 2005. A separate report Friday, though, showed petroleum import prices surged last month. That could cause the trade deficit to resume rising.
Friday’s trade report showed U.S. exports increased by 1.9% to a record $114.66 billion in March from $112.52 billion in February.
Exports increased by $510 million for capital goods, including industrial machines and computer accessories. Exports rose by $181 million for consumer goods, like diamonds and toys. Sales of industrial materials like fuel oil were up $1.25 billion. Exports of foods and beverages increased by $213 million. Foreign sales of autos and parts fell $377 million.
Imports fell by 0.8% to $176.66 billion.